It looks like Stan Lewandowski will be keeping his job for a while as general manager for Intermountain Rural Electric Association, the state's largest rural power co-op. Lewandowski had vowed to quit his 35-year post if IREA Voices, a progressive group, had succeeded in getting its three candidates elected to the IREA's board of directors during the co-op's election this month.
Of course, as Lewandowski knew, if these candidates had won, they'd have likely can him anyway since they strongly disagree with his dismissive views on global warming and have criticized his part in getting the co-op to invest in a controversial new coal plant in Pueblo.
None of that's going to happen, though. Election results show District 3 incumbent board member Gene Sperry took home 3,167 votes in his district, or 55 percent of the total, beating opponent and IREA Voices candidate Mike Galvin - just like Sperry's board colleagues, George Hier and Bruff Shea, beat their IREA Voices challengers.
Lewandowski, ever the pragmatist, sees the results as proof that what really matters to the co-op's 138,000 members is their wallets. "I think, with the economy being what it is, people are concerned about electricity rates," he says. And since under Lewandowski's purview the co-op has always boasted low rates, voters are reluctant to shake things up, no matter the controversial views of their general manager.
That is, unless the election was somehow rigged. "They've got a way to go to have an election process that has integrity to it," says Galvin. "I think it's inherently unfair when the organization itself supports certain candidates, particularly the incumbents."
While Lewandowski denies that IREA supported any of the candidates, he acknowledges that he personally contributed $3,000 total to the incumbents' campaigns.
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John Masson, who lost the election to Bruff Shea, is also concerned that the secrecy envelopes used with the co-op's mail-in ballots were so transparent that a voter's ballot decisions could be read by holding the envelope up to a light.
Lewandowski bristles at accusations of misconduct. "From our end of it, if they have any information that ballots were not counted, they can bring it forward," he says, noting that the co-op hasn't received a formal complaint about its mail-in system since it was implemented in 1983. "Otherwise, they can make all the inferences and innuendos they want."
In the meantime, Lewandowski will continue on with his plan: Helm IREA for another two years, then throw in the towel. So who, then, will step in to fill his sizable shows? Could it be someone associated with IREA Voices?
"I don't think so," Lewandowski says with a laugh. "I really don't think so."